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Why Some Students Quit College — and How They Can Finish

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Growing up in Cookeville, Tennessee, a university town about 80 miles east of Nashville, Hayley Furcean was determined to be the first college graduate in her family.

“I’ve always been the smart kid,” she says.

After graduating from high school in 2008, she earned a full academic scholarship for her first year at Tennessee Technological University in Cookeville and began studying early childhood education. But things took a turn the summer after freshman year, when her grandmother died.

Furcean began questioning whether teaching preschool was what she wanted to do with her life. She moved out of her parents’ home, which meant picking up more shifts at work to pay rent and bills. She suffered from depression and often skipped class.

“My...

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